Get guests comfortable right away! Let them know where they can put their things and then offer up a drink. As soon as guests have a drink in their hands, the vibe changes and they feel taken care of.
BATCH YOUR BOOZE
Make a punch or a cocktail that can be served in a pitcher so you don't have to play bartender all night. Mix it up ahead of time and set up a pretty bar where guests can serve themselves. A drink per person per hour is a good baseline, but if your crowd likes a bit more, round up and have plenty of back-up on hand. A current favorite punch, perfect for summer celebrations.
Red, White + Blueberry Punch
Makes 17 servings
Combine ingredients in a large punch bowl or beverage dispenser and serve over ice. Garnish with blueberries on a toothpick and in the drink.
I like to keep gin, bourbon, vermouth and plenty of Champagne on hand and then have a few seasonal cocktail recipes committed to memory. To make your bar cart look sharp, get a good shaker and a mixing glass. (Remember the basic guideline that cocktails with citrus are shaken while cocktails that are all spirits are stirred.) For barware, I love collecting vintage cocktail coupes and Moroccan tea glasses. Then let your liquor bottles serve as design inspiration. Work off the colors in the labels and pick up cocktail napkins and paper straws that compliment them. Keep your most used tools displayed, both for practicality and design.
SET THE TABLE
For an easy summer look, layer a few textiles on the table. I love block-printed cloths and vintage linens from the 50s and 60s that you can find at flea markets. Then top with chic paper placemats — my current favorites are by Idlewild Co. in fun tropical palm prints (available at Salt & Sundry.) Grab a few palm leaves or monstera leaves and place in bud vases down the table, add a few votives and you're channeling a faraway island without the plane ride.
For a summer meal, there's so much wonderful produce to showcase! Build your menu around a few key vegetables and fruits. For a twist on the classic tomato caprese salad, add sliced peaches and feta cheese. And plenty of basil! Here are a few easy seasonal recipes to get you started!
3 lb ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, roughly chopped
1 yellow or red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, roughly chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
4 slices (4 oz) stale sourdough bread, crusts removed
1 stalk (bulb and greens) of spring garlic, or 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sherry or other good wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt + pepper to taste
1. Place all prepped veggies in a bowl.
2. Place the bread in a food processor and pulse until it becomes breadcrumbs. Add to the bowl with the veggies. Toss to combine.
3. Place veggies, breadcrumbs, and sherry in a blender and process until smooth. Then slowly add the olive oil while the machine is running.
4. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper to your liking. Depending on the juiciness of your veggies and how thick you like your gazpacho, you may need to add a little water to the blender. Refrigerate until ready to serve, the flavor will improve over a few hours. Before serving, check seasoning again and add more sherry, or salt and pepper to taste.
5. Garnish with whatever you prefer! Creme fraîche, fresh herbs, small diced red pepper and cucumber, or croutons.
Blueberry Peach Crisp
2 quarts blueberries and peaches, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups gluten free rolled oats
1 cup almond meal
2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold salted butter + more for greasing the pan (sub olive oil or melted coconut oil)
a pinch of sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter an 2 quart baking dish.
2. Spread fruit in bottom of buttered baking dish.
3. Mix oats, almond meal, pecans, sugar, and butter until evenly combined.
4. Top fruit with oat mixture.
5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the top is crisp and golden.
6. Keep at room temp for up to 2 days or refrigerate. Serve at whatever temp you desire! Pairs nicely with with vanilla ice cream or yogurt.
PAMPER YOUR PEOPLE
Give guests a little something small to take home. I'll put a small jar of artisanal salt from my shops at each place setting. They serve a dual purpose — guests can use for seasoning during the meal and then take them home.
DON'T FORGET TO HAVE FUN
The most important thing to remember is that as a host, your mood sets the tone of the party. If you can kick back and enjoy yourself, your guests will follow suit. Some tips to make your evening smooth:
- Prep as much in advance and give your guests jobs! Making it a group effort makes it more fun for everyone and takes the pressure off the host.
- Pick a few great streaming music stations so the music flows through the night.
- Clean-up can wait. Don't start doing the dishes until your guests leave - or better yet, have them pitch in to keep the party going!
Amanda McClements is the founder and curator of Salt & Sundry, a home goods store for those with a passion for entertaining. Located in Union Market + Logan Circle in Washington, D.C., and online at shopsaltandsundry.com.
For your daily dose of home hospitality inspiration, follow Salt & Sundry on Instagram at @saltandsundry!